One of the most time consuming (and possibly frustrating) parts of camping is taking the time to set up and take down your tent. No more worrying about messing with poles and rainfly’s, because these instant tents are here to make your life way easier.
Instant tents are designed to have the easiest and quickest setup possible and will usually have pre-attached poles, guylines, and rainfly. There’s less time spent pushing poles through sleeves and more time spent enjoying camping. Not all instant tents are created equal, which is why we’ve taken the time to put together a list of the best ones.
Based on our experiences, the best instant tent is the Gazelle T4 Hub. It has a high waterproof rating and quality fabrics that make it ready to camp time and time again, while still having a super quick setup time. We’ve also assembled other favorite options based on capacity, so you can pick the right size pop up tent or instant tent that best fits your needs.
6 Best Instant Tents
These are our picks for the best instant camping tents:
- Editor’s Choice – Gazelle T4 Hub
- Best 2 Person Pop Up Tent- Coleman Pop Up Tent 2P
- Best 4 person Instant Tent – Caddis Rapid 4
- Best 6 Person Instant Tent – Outdoor Products Instant Cabin Tent
- Best 8 Person Instant Tent – Core 9 Instant Cabin Tent
- Best 10 Person Instant Tent – Core Instant Tent with LED Lights
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Editor’s Choice Best Overall Instant Tent – Gazelle T4 Hub
Gazelle has been making tents using their special hub design for over 15 years, with roots in hunting blinds and ice fishing shelters. This tells us that their tents are built to withstand windy conditions and rain, so we’ve selected their T4 Hub as our Editor’s Choice best instant camping tent because of the quality of the materials used. It’s an oxford weave polyester that is 210-denier on the canopy and rainfly, with 300-denier on the tent floor. With 68-denier being ‘average’, you can see how this quality of fabric is built to actually withstand all that car camping has to throw at it.
The fabric also has a UPF 50+ rating, the shell material is waterproof with a 2000mm waterhead rating (hydrostatic head), and the floor has a 5000mm waterhead rating. That means this tent is built to withstand rain and moisture. The rainfly is removable so you can expose the ceiling mesh on clear days/nights, and the no-see-um mesh windows allow for lots of ventilation.
Gazelle has also put some effort into the small details on this tent, such as YKK zippers that are super durable, two D-shaped doors for easy access, and a removable gear loft plus six gear storage pockets. It has a pop-up design that sets up extremely fast, and is easily the most highly rated tent by users. The only downside we were able to find is that it uses fiberglass tent poles, which is less preferred over steel or aluminum poles.
- Weight: 30 lbs.
- Floor size: 94″ x 94″
- Peak height: 78″
- Fabric: 210-denier canopy & rainfly, 300-denier floor
- Waterhead Rating: 2000mm shell, 5000mm floor
- Poles: fiberglass
- Tent Square Feet: 61.36 sq.ft.
- Square Feet Per Person: 15.34 sq.ft.
- Highlight: Highest quality fabrics and waterhead rating
- Price: $$$
Best 2 Person Pop Up Tent – Coleman Pop Up Camping Tent with Dark Room Technology
Coleman makes some really great outdoor products that are quite affordable, and this pop-up tent fits perfectly into that category. It’s a 2-person pop-up tent that’s also available in a 4-person capacity, and we really like the Dark Room Technology that they’ve built into the fabric. You’ll notice that it’s much darker than traditional tent fabrics, and that’s because it blocks 90% of the sun’s rays. This makes it cooler inside the tent, even on the sunniest days.
As for assembly, this tent pops up in as little as 10 seconds. It uses pre-attached poles, guylines and rainfly, so everything is ready to just pop open. Simply open the folded tent, set it on the ground, and stake the corners. Then you’re all set! The rainfly comes attached, but you can remove it and expose the mesh roof for increased ventilation. To take it down, you’ll need two people to make it easier, but the tent packs down into the included storage bag quite easily once you get the hang of it.
The main downside of this tent is that there’s no information on the tent’s fabric thickness or the waterhead rating. Because of this, we wouldn’t recommend using this tent for long camping trips or times you could be exposed to rain. It would be perfect for casual campers who enjoy summer camping in nice weather conditions or even as a kids tent for the backyard.
- Weight: 6.8 lbs.
- Floor size: 7ft. 6in. x 4ft. 5in. (90″ x 53″)
- Tent Square Feet: 33.12 sq.ft.
- Square Feet Per Person: 16.56 sq.ft.
- Peak height: 2’11″
- Setup Time: 10 seconds
- Highlight: Dark room Technology
- Price: $
Best 4 Person Instant Tent – Caddis Rapid 4
Caddis doesn’t make a ton of different tents, but the ones they do make are some of our favorites. This Rapid 4 also made our list for best 4 person tents and we really like that it balances price with quality materials. The fabric is 190-denier on the rainfly and canopy, with the floor being 210-denier. These numbers are well above what we consider to be our ‘minimum’ rating, so we like that it’s built to withstand wear. Plus, the poles are made of steel, which we prefer over fiberglass any day. This makes it more sturdy and the poles will last longer.
The Rapid 4 is really quick and easy to set up – you essentially just have to take off the bag, unfold the poles, and raise it up before staking it in the ground. We’ve included a video below so you can see how easy it is. It also has a generous max height of 80 inches (6 ft. 8 in.) and near vertical walls, so there’s plenty of standing room even though it’s one of the smaller tents on this list.
Although we couldn’t find any information on the waterhead rating, we think this tent is high quality enough for campers who want a tent that’s built to last. It has lots of headroom for a 4 person tent, and the fabric and poles are made of high quality materials. Plus, it’s one of the highest rated tents on our list, and it also comes in a 6 person capacity.
- Weight: 20 lbs. 8 oz.
- Floor size: 96″ x 96″
- Peak height: 80″
- Pole Material: steel
- Fabric: 190-denier rainfly and canopy, 210-denier floor
- Tent Square Feet: 64 sq.ft.
- Square Feet Per Person: 16
- Highlight: Quality fabrics and steel poles
- Price: $$
Best 6 Person Instant Tent – Outdoor Products 6 Person Instant Cabin Tent
Outdoor Products is a smaller outdoors company that’s been around since 1973, and they make a great 6 person instant cabin tent. It takes less than 60 seconds to set up, so you can enjoy more time at camp focusing on the important things. They also use extended eaves, and you can see in the product image that the rainfly sticks out from the top and sides of the tent. It still keeps you dry, but it also allows for increased ventilation since air can move more freely between the tent and the rainfly.
We couldn’t find a waterhead rating on this tent, but it does follow some basic steps to help keep you dry. This includes a tub-shaped floor, sealed seams, and weather block technology. It also has built-in storage pockets for your other camping gear, multi-media pockets, as well as two ground vents for even more air circulation. The no-see-um mesh allows for a breeze on dry days or can zipper shut for privacy and weather protection.
Overall this is a great instant tent with a 6-person capacity, and offers plenty of floor space for small groups of campers. It has been tested to withstand winds up to 40 mph, so it is plenty weather resistant for casual campers.
- Weight: 23.5 lbs.
- Floor size: 10 ft. x 9 ft.
- Peak Center Height: 72″
- Poles: steel
- Tent Square Feet: 90 sq.ft.
- Square Feet Per Person: 15
- Highlight: Weather resistant 6 person tent that’s perfect for family camping trips.
- Price: $$
Best 8 Person Instant Cabin Tent – Core 9 Instant Cabin Tent
CORE makes some really highly rated tents, and their Core 9 person instant cabin is one of our favorites from their product line. Their Core 10 made our best 10 person tents list and their Core 11 made our best tents with a screen room list. While this specific tent is called the Core 9, it’s actually more suited for sleeping 8 people based on capacity, and the nine refers to the depth of the tent, which is 9 feet. It can fit two queen air beds and is an airy and roomy instant tent.
Core uses an Instant Hub Technology that ensures a quick setup in less than 60 seconds, and there’s even a divider in the middle that can create two separate rooms. With an oversized main door, two side doors, seven large windows, an adjustable ground vent, and a mesh roof (with removable rainfly cover), this tent is ready for lots of ventilation. Or zipper the windows shut for privacy and wet weather protection.
There’s also a built-in electrical port, gear loft, and storage pockets, as well as a fully taped rainfly and seams. Combine this with steel poles and 68-denier fabric, and you have a cabin style tent that’s ready for family camping trips and fun times outdoors.
- Weight: 37 lbs.
- Floor size: 14′ x 9′
- Peak height: 78″ (6.5 ft.)
- Fabric: 150D door, 68D elsewhere
- Poles: steel
- Tent Square Feet: 126 sq.ft.
- Square Feet Per Person: 15.75
- Number of Rooms: 1-2
- Highlight: Lots of ventilation
- Price: $$
Best 10 Person Instant Tent – Core Tent with LED Lighting
Core has made our best instant tents list again with this 10 person option. We really love the screen room and the included LED lighting, which is something you don’t typically see in other tents. Even with these features, it’s still an affordable price that won’t break the bank.
We are always a fan of a cool screen room, and we really like how this family tent includes a screened patio that’s perfect for bug-free hanging out. Something that makes this camping tent stand out even more is the LED lighting that’s built into the tent poles. There is three different brightness settings that go up to 950 lumens: high, low, and nightlight (see photo below) that are controlled by the push of a button.
To make it even better, this tent uses poles that are pre-attached to set up in as little as two minutes and has a removable room divider that gives you the option for a two room tent. With all the screened windows, overhead mesh roof with a view of the night sky, and lower air intake vents, there’s lots of ventilation.
While this tent does have sealed seams and a taped rainfly, it is considered water-resistant and not water-proof. The 600mm waterhead rating is below water-proof levels, so this tent is best for fair weather camping weekends, or you can treat it yourself before taking it on your next family camping trip. If you want something with better weather resistance, perhaps some other instant tents on this list would be a better option.
- Weight: 47.8 lbs.
- Floor size: 14′ x 10′
- Peak Center Height: 84″ (7 ft.)
- Poles: Fiberglass
- Fabric: 68-denier
- Number of Rooms: 1-2
- Tent Square Feet: 140 sq.ft.
- Square Feet Per Person: 14
- Highlight: Huge tent with oversized screen room and included LED lighting.
- Price: $$$
Thing to Consider When Choosing an Instant Tent
When shopping for the best instant tents, it’s important to take into consideration capacity, shape, ease of setup, fabric durability, waterhead rating, and poles.
One of the first things we will always talk about before purchasing a tent is the capacity rating, or the number of people a tent is advertised to sleep. This number is for people who want to sleep in really close quarters shoulder to shoulder, without extra floor space for gear, clothing, pets, etc. For most situations, you should always decrease the capacity by at least two campers, meaning that a 6-person tent is better suited for four campers or less. You could even cut the capacity number in half if you wanted lots of extra space or if you like sleeping on blow up mattresses.
In the tents above, we’ve included specifications for the square footage of each tent, as well as the square foot per person based on recommended capacity. You can see that each tent hovers right around 15 sq.ft. per person, which is on the extreme low end of the range for the amount of floor space each person should be allotted. If you’re interested in learning more about how much interior space you need in a tent or how to calculate the camping tent size you should purchase, read more here.
Most of the tents on this list are instant cabin tents (versus dome tents), which feature near vertical walls and square or rectangle shapes. They have very generous max heights that let you stand up and walk around in almost the entire tent, and this can be either a pro or a con depending on the type of conditions you typically encounter when car camping.
Because of the high ceiling and straight walls in a cabin tent, they’re more likely to catch wind like a sail, which isn’t good if you camp during adverse weather. That’s why these cabin style instant camping tents are better suited for campers who prefer to only camp during ideal conditions during spring, summer, and fall.
If you do frequently camp in windy conditions, perhaps a dome tent or a tunnel shape would better deflect wind (check out the Best Tents for High Winds).
Ease of Setup
Normally we would discuss how easy it is to setup a tent, and this would be a contributing factor to your tent shopping. However, these pop-up tents are all quick and easy to setup, even with just one or two people. We’ve tried to include videos that not only review the tent, but also show setup in real time so you can get an idea of exactly how ‘instant’ they are.
While manufacturers do tend to exaggerate how quickly any tent can be setup, these tents are all super quick and easy, so you should have no problems getting setup efficiently.
The durability of the fabric is typically represented as denier (or sometimes shown as a capital D). The higher the number the better, with 65-70 being pretty average for a decent quality tent. If you want a tent that’s going to last, you should always look at higher denier fabrics. This idea is one of the reasons we selected the Gazelle T4 as our Editor’s Choice, since it has high denier fabrics, but all of the tents on this list would be a good choice for most car campers.
Waterhead rating is measurement of how waterproof a tent is, with a higher number being better. The minimum recommended waterhead rating sits right around 1200mm, with 1500mm or more showing that the tent is better suited for rainy/wet conditions. Most of the tents on this list don’t advertise their waterhead rating, which makes us skeptical. We would only recommend using these tents in ideal camping conditions, as it seems like these specific models put more effort into their cool design rather than their waterproofing.
The only exception to this is our Editor’s Choice Gazelle T4 Hub, which as a generous fabric quality and waterhead rating, but that’s why it’s our favorite tent on this list. That being said, the other tents do have taped seams and a rain fly, so they should be suited for some light rain and wind.
Poles are usually made of either fiberglass or aluminum, but with instant tents we also see steel as a pole material. While steel does add weight, these tents aren’t meant for backpacking so that shouldn’t be a big deal. Otherwise, steel also adds strength, and it’s a sign of a sturdy pole.
Generally fiberglass is used to cut cost, but it’s also more prone to splintering and breaking. While fiberglass isn’t the preferred material, it doesn’t have to be a deal-breaker either. Just know that a tent with fiberglass poles is going to be slightly less wind resistant, which is already a factor in these tall cabin tents like we discussed above.
No matter the pole material, make sure you guy out your tent for added stability, which will take some of the pressure off the poles.
While it’s tempting to buy the cheapest option you can find, keep in mind that cutting corners on price means the manufacturer cut corners on quality. It’s important to have a tent that will last more than one night, or even preferably more than one season, so make sure you’re spending the right amount of money for the quality you need.
There’s different times of year that are the best time to buy a tent for cheap, but there’s also year-round options for tents under $100 and tents under $200. If you want to spend a little more on a high quality tent that’s more likely to last several seasons, we would recommend shopping by capacity (links above under ‘capacity’) to find something that’s the right size and price for you.
Instant Vs. Pop Up Tents
While pop up tents are considered instant tents, instant tents aren’t necessarily pop up. They’re really two different kinds of tents, each with their own pros and cons. Pop up tents ‘pop’ into place – think about the windshield screen in your car. The only pop up tent on this list is the Coleman 2 person, which is a great small tent.
On the other hand, instant tents assemble quickly and easily, but don’t ‘pop’ up. They use pre attached poles that unfold and snap into place, which keeps setup time under 90 seconds in most cases. Unless you’re looking for a really small pop up tent, most instant tents will typically have better fabrics and higher quality poles, making them a better option in most circumstances.
Which instant tent is best?
The Gazelle T4 Hub is the best instant tent currently on the market, and we love how it uses high quality fabrics while still being super quick and easy to setup.
What is an instant tent?
Instant tents are designed to set up rather quickly, typically in 90 seconds or less. They usually have poles, guylines, and a rainfly that are pre-attached for quick setup.
What is the easiest tent to put up alone?
All of these instant tents would be great options for setting up with only one person, with the smaller 2- and 4-person tents being even easier.
Can you replace tent poles in an instant tent?
Tent poles in an instant tent are usually pre-attached, so it can be more difficult to replace them if one accidentally breaks. It would be worth reaching out directly to the manufacturer to see if the poles are replacible, especially if your tent is still under warranty.
These best instant tents make setup incredibly easy so you can focus on the more important parts of camping. Once you get an instant tent, you won’t want to go back to a traditional design.
Now that you know everything there is to know about the top instant tents, we’re sure that you can make an great decision on which one is perfect for you and your typical car camping situation. Whether you go with our Editor’s Choice Gazelle T4 Hub Tent or any of the others on this list, we hope you have many fun camping adventures in your new tent.
About the Author
My goal with my writing and Know Nothing Nomads as a whole is to share my passions of hiking, camping, and a love of the outdoors with our readers. Making the difficult and uncertain feel more approachable to people that might not know enough to feel comfortable taking their first steps into the wilderness is a driving factor for me. When I’m not writing you can find me on a trail, in a forest, or next to a river with hiking shoes on my feet and a fly rod somewhere close by.